Friends, it is pumpkin season.
Pumpkin bread, specifically, burnished bronze loaves that taste to me like the very essence of autumn. If you’re unfamiliar, know that they’re bread in name but cake in experience, in a way that’s not dissimilar from banana bread. Think: easy to throw together, effortless to bake, even simpler to eat. Pumpkin beer and pumpkin spice latte haters, don’t wrinkle your nose at me yet. While the tinned pumpkin imparts its necessary musky, earthy sweetness, it is the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger that really makes this dessert – and makes it a cousin to carrot and spice cakes.
My mom has been baking this pumpkin bread for decades and the recipe is faultless: Every time I have made it, I wind up with two perfect loaves, sweet and spiced and tender of crumb. Though I traditionally eat a fridge-cold slice with a hot coffee for breakfast, this pumpkin bread is also well accompanied by a swipe of the best-quality salted butter (or even maple compound butter), and is lovely toasted. And while noncanonical, I also think pumpkin bread would work very well with a wedge of traditional English cheese – say Kirkham’s Lancashire, which Fergus Henderson of St John serves with eccles cakes.
But if we’re talking pairings, there’s one that I particularly love here – and that’s pumpkin bread with a dark, sweet stout of your choosing. Left Handed Giant’s appropriately spooky We Are Ghosts on the Moon Imperial Stout is one worthy candidate. This 12% knockout is the kind of beer you might slowly sip from a snifter in front of a big fire, such is its richness and potency. Made with maple, lactose, pecan and honeycomb, it’s unabashedly boozy and dessert-like – and has the autumnal flavour profile to match the pumpkin bread.
I like that this stout is both sweet enough to stand up to the pumpkin bread, and that the pumpkin bread in turn draws out a deeper, roastier character than what might be detected in the beer on its own. If pumpkin hasn’t yet become part of your October ritual, I’d urge you to reconsider – and bring a stout along with you to sweeten the deal.
Makes 2 loaves
500g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
600g caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
235ml vegetable oil
1 425g tin pumpkin puree
1. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Lightly butter and flour two large loaf pans.
2. Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk until uniform.
3. Make a well in the centre and add the wet ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated and no lumps remain. Divide evenly between the two loaf pans (the batter will be quite thin and pourable).
4. Bake for approximately 50 minutes–1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Start checking the loaves after 30 or 40 minutes, as you may need to rotate the pans, or lightly cover with foil, if they’re uneven or getting too dark.
5. Once a tester comes out clean, remove the loaves from the oven and leave to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool further. Slice and serve with salted butter. The bread will keep well, wrapped in foil and in the fridge, for up to a week.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers - like this one - every month.